Marriages at the end of a long life together are usually either wrapped up in the shimmery gossamer of romance or the angry and bitter "what ifs" of time gone by. In Claire Boylan's BELOVED STRANGER, she uses a healthy, happy marriage of 50 years running to tell a murderous tale, all the while highlighting the intense and never-ending dedication of a woman who has loved the same man for half a century and won't let him down now, no matter whether he has killed someone or not.
As Dick falls prey to the ravenous clutches of madness, he finds access to a world of his own making, a world inside his head in which evil nemeses, rivals for his wife's affections, and bizarre activities replace the rational, hardheaded ways he has exhibited in his life with Lily. Believing that murder may be among Dick's new hobbies, Lily turns to their daughter Ruth, a contemporary gal with a penchant for multiple lovers and nothing that comes close to the commitment her parents have experienced with each other. When Lily explains the situation to Ruth and begs her to find out what is really going on, Ruth is forced to take a look down the intricately built but somewhat slippery slope that has made up her parents' marriage.
Boylan seems most comfortable with the character of Ruth, the unromantic unbeliever. As the case against Dick deepens and the trouble on the horizon hits closer to home, Boylan makes Ruth a rather caustic ally of her troubled mother. In a clean and crisp writing style, with the intentional emotional wallop fully realized, BELOVED STRANGER is a fascinating dip into the realities of "'til death do us part." It would make a great movie, too!
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on April 3, 2001